Tag Archive | exercise

Break on through

Sometimes it’s easy to get stuck when you’re feeling overloaded. For me, much overload is self-inflicted, like the piles of books and magazines I need (and want) to read, the sewing to be done, the garden to plant, the blog posts to write. You get the picture.

And because, Ayurvedically speaking, I’m a vata/pitta, heavy on the vata, when I get stuck I tend to spin in circles, metaphorically and sometimes physically, when I really need to do what it takes to break on through to the other side and get back to the business – or pleasure – at hand.

For me, that entails either listening to loud, good music or exercise. Sometimes both, as in just turning up the tunes and kitchen-dancing.

I’ve felt particularly stuck lately, with the shoulders and the sore shin and the growing piles of stuff in my house, not to mention the construction going on upstairs and all the work I need to get done.

John called me a “whirling dervish” the other night, which stopped me in my tracks for a discussion along the lines of, “Yes, Sufism is a type of Islam,” (me) and, “No, I think it’s something else,” (John). That entailed a Google search to prove that it is indeed the mystical branch of Islam, and oh, by the way remember that poem by Rumi that I sent you when we first met? (That would be me to John.)

Ohmygosh, I love that poem.

The minute I heard my first love story I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somehwere. They’re in each other all along.                                                   – Jalal ad-Din Rumi

Now, where was I?

Oh, yes, the point of this post is that exercise can be the best possible way to break on through. Just let everything else wait and get some endorphins flowing. Even if you think you don’t like exercise, I’ll bet you will eventually.

I’ve continued to do my three-times-a-week baby weights and walking as much as possible, though pollen has driven me to the treadmill (hence the shin thing, I think). But I’ve been slacking on the other days, except for hula hoop breaks, which are good exercise and great for my sanity.

This morning, though, enough was enough. I got my rear in the living room to do a workout DVD, and instead of going with one of my standard faves, popped in a new one, Ivy Ingram Larson’s Full Fitness Fusion.


Whoa. Fun, fun, and fun. A bit Lotte Berke, a bit Pilates, a bit weights, some calisthenics and a tad yoga. Effective and quick. I highly dig it.

(In a previous incarnation, I was a health and fitness columnist. Review copies still come on occasion, which is how I came by this one – and I’m glad I finally got it off the stack.)

Granted, I’m 20+ years older than Larson and her girlfriends in the video, and, granted, I had to adapt for rotator cuff and other issues. I didn’t use weights, since yesterday was a weight day, either. I’ll probably give this one to my daughter, since she’s more Larson’s age range, but this is a great workout for anyone.

Just remember to adapt. I can’t do reverse plank at all, for example, so I did boat pose instead. Probably shouldn’t have done the modified pushups, my right shoulder is saying. But sometimes I can’t help myself.

Larson, who’s married to a surgeon, has MS, which she seems to be controlling nicely with diet and exercise. She and her husband have a very cool and helpful website, cleancuisineandmore.com, which I encourage you to visit for general health tips and more.

And if you’re looking for a fun, quick workout, try this one. I’m smiling. And not whirling for now.

Keep on growing

Two things this busy weekend got me thinking about hobbies vs. commitments and follow-through vs. flightiness. The first was the fun and funky soap-making class my friend Julia and I attended. We’ll come back to that.

The second was explaining to Jude, who spent about 24 hours with us this weekend, what “hobby” means.

He’d picked up the dog-training clicker and training treats, so the girls started frantically doing every trick in their repertoires. Pretty funny.

I showed Jude how to use the clicker properly and taught him the hand signals Tess and Zuzu know. He got the hang of it quickly, so I told him I’d get him a clicker to use with his own dog, Fancy, and that could be his hobby.

“What’s a hobby?” he asked.

With just a brief explanation, he seemed to get the drift. Granted, 5 might be kind of young for a serious hobby, but you never know what will stick.

I look at dalliances with new hobbies/interests, even the ones that don’t stick as ways to keep on growing. Some people have taken me as flighty for the (many, many) ones that don’t stick, but I see it as nothing ventured, nothing gained.

And some of them have stuck and stuck hard, moving into the realm of commitment. This blog started as a hobby. It already feels like a commitment, but how long it lasts remains to be seen.

The earliest “hobby” I can think of is loving and keeping up with rock ’n’ roll music, dating back to “American Bandstand” on our first TV. Then came a love for reading, which I’d have to call a hobby, I guess. Both of those have lasted a lifetime.

If the money I’ve spent on both had been put in an investment account, I wouldn’t be nearly as happy.

The first true hobbies that became commitments started in elementary school, cooking and sewing. I made my first cake from scratch at 9, after begging Mother and convincing her that I wouldn’t waste the ingredients.

The cake turned out perfectly, and Mother was very proud. That sparked an interest in cooking that lasted until the early days of my first marriage, or about the time I turned 21.

Sadly for me, my first husband was a meat-and-potatoes, plain-food kind of guy who not only refused to taste anything with multiple ingredients but also referred to such things as “crap” or much, much worse. That put my love for cooking on the back burner for years, other than baking.

I cooked, don’t get me wrong, and way more than I wanted to, but the joy was gone.

After my divorce, though, it came rushing right back.

Sewing started with handmade Barbie clothes at about 8 and progressed to simple pants for myself by the sixth grade. I sewed like a fiend through Liz’s childhood and kept at it occasionally until one day in my early 40s when I just lost interest.

Liz’s pleated-velvet coat dress was one of the more elaborate things I ever made.

(That reminds me of an article I read years ago in which a man mentioned that his mother just “lost her will to cook when Elvis died.”)

Lately I’ve been wanting to get the sewing machine out of the attic, though. Two granddaughters will do that to you.

Exercise became a fact of life as soon as I healed from having Liz, who will be 32 next month. Lifting weights has been a fixture since my arms jiggled right around my 30th birthday. Twenty-six years later the weights have gotten much lighter, but they’ll never go away.

Is exercise a hobby or a commitment or a way of life? Does it matter? Is this navel-gazing? Probably. But exercise in all its various incarnations has helped keep my navel in its proper place all these years, so whatever it is, I’m glad it stuck.

Making mosaics is a hobby that I first dabbled with in high school. Almost 40 years later I started again. This spring, I have a commitment to mosaic my front porch. 

Now that it’s on record, I’ll have to follow through. I’ve found that’s a good way to make myself accountable, because it’s rather embarrassing to announce something and not do it. I won’t tell you about all the things I’ve started and not finished.

Like the violin I bought the last month I taught at Central. Oops. Seemed like a good idea, and I’ll come back to it at some point. Probably. Or not. It could be like our super-cool digital movie camera we bought a few years back. Great idea but largely unused.

Now, back to the soap. Ashley Ralston, of Folded Flower soaps, taught us the melt-and-pour technique at a workshop offered through The Green Corner Store. The timing was perfect – Julia and I had been talking about making soap for a while, combining our interest in aromatherapy with a desire to create.

We have a little knowledge and a whole bunch of soap molds on the way. And now we’re on record.

Stay tuned.

Shape your booty

Back when my children were very little, I did the uber-early morning 20-Minute Workout (the one that made Eddie Murphy’s character in 48 Hours exclaim, “TV has changed!”) before the kids got up, and Jane Fonda’s original workout on LP later in the day.

(Stopping to turn the record over gave a few-seconds-long breather. I can still hear the pops and snaps of the LP. Sigh.)

The kids knew that was mama-time and left me alone; afterward, we did a fun session together of Mickey Mouse’s Mousercise, also on LP. No cartoon images to follow – it was all music and imagination. The kiddos really got into it, proving you’re never too young to exercise if it’s fun.

Nor are you ever too old, as long as you’re mobile (and willing to adapt as needed) and as long as it’s fun.

Tracey Mallett’s The Booty Barre series is fun. And hard. I wish I’d had it at 26, when I was doing the aforementioned early morning workout, or even at 36, when I was a gym rat, instead of at almost-56, when it’s much harder to execute a high ballet kick. Hell, it’s hard to do a medium ballet kick.

But you do what you can as best you can and don’t do what you can’t, which, for me, is anything that comes close to a push-up, courtesy of hanging-by-a-thread rotator cuffs, even after open surgery a few years ago. (Yes, you can exercise too hard, though what precipitated the surgery was catching an unconscious student and lowering her to the ground. Go figure.)

When Tracey says it’s time for plank work, I do child’s pose, cat/dog or maybe hold a still plank. Or I work a mean fast-forward button if I’m in a hurry. Her workouts combine ballet, Pilates, a touch of yoga and a touch of kick-boxing and give a considerable nod to the Lotte Berk Method.

Did I mention they’re tough? Great cardio for an old gal. But seriously, they’re super-fun, in a sadomasochistic kind of way. That means you’ve got to love the burn. And the sweat. Because you will. Burn and sweat, I mean. Love it? That’s a personal decision.

After the first day I did a 20-minute segment of The Booty Barre Plus Arms & Abs, I got up at 4 in the morning for a trip to the bathroom. “What is wrong with my thighs?!” went racing through my head before I realized it was the workout. Cool.

I haven’t been sore again, though after today’s super-intense barre section of The Booty Barre Total New Body, I suspect I will be.

But I’ll be kicking and grooving again soon. Can’t wait.

Shake your groove thing (just don’t break it)

Exercise is still a fact of life, pretty much daily, though at this point I don’t go into DTs if I miss a day or two. And the intensity has been forced back a few levels, not so much due to age as to injuries (some self-inflicted, some K9-inflicted), pushing too hard/being too competitive and just plain knuckleheadedness.

Running is reduced to walking, barring the occasional sprint with a dog or two. Until last fall, I still ran once a year, in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, but 2010 was the year I just walked — and was OK with it.

Extreme-yoga-induced sciatica prevents forward bends, and double rotator cuff surgery has me banned from gyms — “What part of ‘you can’t be trusted around weights’ don’t you get?” my mildly exasperated ortho doc asked me after I’d slightly torn them again within a month of joining the Downtown Athletic Club with the hubster. So I’m reduced to baby weights and working out at home. Like a good girl, I gave away everything heavier than 12-pound dumbbells and an 18-pound bar, though I did sneak to the store and buy one 20-pounder for one-armed bent rows. What can I say?  But weight lifting is mostly therapeutic — lots of reps of 5- to 8-pound baby weights.

Whatever. It works and the Big Buff ’80s are long gone. My wiser (and three-year-younger) friend Rhonda, my weight-lifting partner in the BB80s, still manages to sling some heavy ones — she says I’ve been her cautionary tale of what not to do. (Just like my three-year-younger sister said she watched what I got in trouble for growing up and did the opposite — or at least made sure she didn’t get caught.) I’m glad I could be of service to those I love.

Speaking of love, I love, love, love my Wii Fit Plus — I weigh (almost) everyday for informational purposes and trendspotting (after years of not owning a scale because it made me nuts) and workout on it on some non-weight days. It’s pretty groovy with it’s record-keeping functions and offers all kinds exercise activities. If you don’t have one, I’d recommend adding it to your workout arsenal, especially if you already have a Wii in your house.

But my go-to workouts these days are mainly of the DVD variety, usually Lotte Berk Method variations and Pilates- or dance-based moves. The ones I’m loving right now are a fairly new one and an older one I pulled back out.

Jackie Warner’s Xtreme Abs Standing Abs workout is great. Perfectamundo, in fact. It’s just hard enough, lively without being perky and doesn’t hurt any of my ouchy zones (I do it sans weights). I think it’s not suggested for beginners (rated intermediate), so proceed with caution if you’re a newbie, but I love it. L-O-V-E it.

Reminds me of all the standing abwork we did when I coached the girls soccer team at NLRHS. Didn’t we have fun, girls? Can’t you admit it now?

My slightly older but ever-so-goodie that I’ve been doing again lately is from my old friend Kathy Smith, also known as the living Barbie. We’ve worked out together since the late ’80s. And I actually got to do a long phone interview with her in 2004 — she’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever talked to, just so you know. Don’t hate her because she’s a beautiful Amazon woman and your husband likes to watch her workouts for entertainment purposes. She’s in her late 50s and looks incredible. 

Actually, forget looks. She is. Her Total Body Lift is a Lotte Berk/Pilates/dance-inspired workout with the typical “we love to work out” Kathy Smith flair. Again, this one doesn’t hurt anything that plagues me. It’s also considered intermediate, but if you follow the modifier, you should be fine. Kathy won’t let you get hurt. And she’ll laugh with you if you teeter — and admit when a move is a bit too tough even for her. You’ve got to love her teaching style. If you don’t, well, that renders me speechless.

And that’s hard to do.